Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Reading while writing

Looking at my TBR pile of books always puts me in a good mood. I see an array of colourful spines with words such as Brad, Mistress, Poker, Janice, Trap and Liver to tempt me. Some will be read before others, of course. Especially those I’m planning to review on Mystery Maven Canada.

Others I’m saving for a chilly early evening read in front of the fireplace. And I know, unfortunately, there will be some that remain on the pile indefinitely, while new titles are added with a frightening frequency. That’s just the way it is. I love keeping that pile topped up. Well, it’s actually several piles located in many rooms of the house.

There’s the bedside stack that sits next to my clock/radio/CD player on the nightside table; the pile of books on the end table next to the sofa in the living room; the books in the TV room on the coffee table; and several towers of TBRs on the floor in my home office. Heartwarming!

I’m sure that many of you can relate to this need to have books at a ready to be read.

The question is, what do you read while you’re ensconced in a writing project? Do you read a mainstream novel while writing a mystery? Poetry, perhaps? Or maybe strictly non-fiction? If you’re writing thrillers, do you read cosies? Or if a cosy series is your bread-and-butter, do you read only police procedurals?

When I started taking writing seriously, meaning with applied deadlines and a goal of publication in this lifetime, I studiously avoided reading the type of mystery I wrote. I’d read that somewhere…authors worried about someone else’s style or maybe even plot points bleeding into their own stories. But I don’t believe that anymore.

For me, writing cosies, I find that a mixture works best. I need the variety of a good caper, a historical thriller, a police procedural or even a non-mystery will bring to my cosy-clogged mind. But I also thrive on reading within my sub-genre. Spending a half hour in some other fictional small Southern town, with a tightly-knit group of amateur sleuths solving the crime helps re-focus my brain and I find the writing flows more easily. I’m certain I don’t transplant those characters, that town, and particularly not that plot to my page. But it does help me “think lighter”, if that makes any sense. And I’m the first to admit that cosies generally are a lighter read. Not, a lesser read, I might add!

Besides, I need to keep on top of what the editors are choosing to publish. Am I moving in the right direction? And what readers will I find once I get there?

Linda Wiken/Erika Chase
A Killer Read coming April 3, 2012
from Berkley Prime Crime


  1. Yours is the second post I've read in the past 15 minutes on growing TBR piles, although the other person was despairing, rather than cheerful!

    I find it interesting that you read within your own sub-genre while writing. For myself, my reading is split in half. In the afternoons, after working, I tend to read non-fiction. I write procedurals, so I gravitate toward books on profiling (John Douglas, of course) or text books I've collected on policing, pathology, etc. Just the facts, m'am. Or else I just read whatever book on American history I have going.

    At bedtime I read fiction, and I tend to re-read stuff I know I like, but again relatively close to what I do. Soon it will be time to plough through the Lee Child canon once again. Or maybe John Grisham, whose prose I admire greatly and can never match.....

    The Overnight Bestseller

  2. I am (now) a slow reader. But I panic when my supply of books becomes less than library-esque, so the collection continues to grow. However, now that I have started up a book club I primarily read what's on our book list.

    This means I'm reading stuff I would not have come to on my own. And find that it has vastly opened up my writer's mind. It remains to be seen if this a good thing . . . or not.